HIGHLANDER, now considered the leading long-distance hiking event series in the world, was founded in Croatia in 2017 by Igor Mlinarevic, a veteran event organizer with stops at Ironman 70.3, the Tour of Croatia, and the Pannonian Challenge, among others. The self-proclaimed "hiking evangelist" wanted to combine his two passions — hiking, and designing experiences that people love — and HIGHLANDER, "the Adventure of a Lifetime," was born.
The first-ever HIGHLANDER event was held on Velebit, the largest mountain range in Croatia, along the Adriatic coast. Since then, the brand has expanded rapidly across the globe, with iterations in Egypt, Morocco, Slovenia, Austria, France, North Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Portugal, Montenegro, and Serbia. When Spartan CEO Joe De Sena got wind of HIGHLANDER CEO Jurica Barac's vision for the unique hiking experience — to not just change lives, but to save the planet with a leave-no-trace focus — the two formed a strategic partnership in 2021. Just a few months later, HIGHLANDER landed on American soil for the first time ever, launching its inaugural U.S. even in Big Bear Lake, California.
"Big Bear was truly the 'Adventure of a Lifetime' for me," hiker Jessica Long said. "This event changed my life and came at a time in my life when I really needed it. I was able to be surrounded by so many kind strangers and come out the other side with so many beautiful friends, and to dig deep in myself and feel that I am worthy."
With multiple formats — from two-day, 15-mile excursions to three-day, 30-mile trips, and all the way up to four-day, 60-mile expeditions — these events offer a life-changing experience where you can connect with Mother Nature, explore the most unseen corners of the globe, and build unbreakable bonds with fellow hikers over shared interests, no matter your athletic ability.
Here's everything you need to know about the 2024 HIGHLANDER long-distance hiking events.
The 2024 HIGHLANDER Long-Distance Hiking Event Schedule for the United States
In 2023, more than 200 backpackers spent up to five days trekking close to 103 miles starting at Snow Valley Mountain and continuing to the top of Keller Peak, where they were left speechless by views of Arrowhead, Gregory, and Silverwood Lake. Over the few days, hikers journeyed through the greenest part of the expedition, Little Green Valley, and all of the way to the desert-like Cactus Flat. They could even choose to summit Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest peak in the San Bernardino Mountains outside of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, with a peak elevation of 9,952 feet.
Along the way, backpackers were enriched with lectures by the likes of Dean Karnazes, a well-known ultrarunner and one of TIME's most influential people in the world; a retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer; a best-selling author; and others, and they learned how to protect our nature and the environment, relaxed with live music and private concerts, and practiced yoga atop a mountain.
They even managed to pick up 495 pounds of litter while out on the trail.
This year's Big Bear Lake HIGHLANDER event will unfold from June 19-23 and will feature a new distance format, Lyra. Named after the harmonious lyre in Greek mythology, the Lyra is a one-day quest designed for audacious souls and adventure seekers with limited time on their hands.
Sign up for the 2024 Big Bear Lake HIGHLANDER here.
Kalispell offers year-round bucket-list adventures, world-class terrain, and mountain-town charm. The surrounding wilderness features western larch and fir and pine forests, along with colorful aspen, mountain ash, and wild huckleberry, where you'll find deer, bear, moose, porcupine, eagles, foxes, and even owls.
The HIGHLANDER trail starts on the Flathead Valley floor, meanders through vibrant colorful foliage that will changing at the start of fall, and reaches mountain tops that will allow you to experience alpine meadows and vista views. You'll be located just minutes from downtown, yet somehow surrounded by 2.4 million acres of the Flathead National Forest, along with the 1 million acres that make up Glacier National Park.
In 2023, backpackers on Kalispell HIGHLANDER picked up a whopping 1,203 pounds of trash.
The 2024 iteration of this event will take place between September 10-14 and feature three- and five-day formats.
Sign up for the 2024 Kalispell HIGHLANDER here.